Stop Busting Your Food Budget!
By Selena Garrison, MS, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
Reviewed by Gayle Whitworth, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, University of Florida Extension, Brevard County
Have you ever taken a look at your spending for the month and wondered how on earth you spent so much money on food?
With our busy lives and hectic schedules, it can be so easy to grab a bite to eat here, get a latte there, have lunch with our coworkers…and before we know it, we’ve spent more money than we ever intended. The good news is that with a little pre-planning and a few savvy skills, you can cut down on the amount you spend on food and save that money for other things.
Cut Back on Eating Out
If you love to eat out or just do it for convenience, you’ll really notice these costs when you start tracking your expenses. This is an obvious area to cut when trying to rein in your budget, but it might not be easy at first.
It can help to establish a goal: first, figure out how much money you have available to spend on food each month, including food prepared at home and when eating out. Money can be saved by preparing your work lunches ahead of time, packing snacks for the office, or planning out your dinners for the week so that you will be prepared with all the ingredients ahead of time. If you still have money left in your food budget at the end of the month, you can save it or spend it to go out, guilt-free.
It may seem hard to get used to these changes in the beginning, but once you’re accustomed to your new routine, eating out will feel like a real treat instead of an everyday money waster. As an added bonus, you may learn to cook some new things and actually come to enjoy trying new recipes!
Plan Your Grocery List Around BOGO Items
Shopping BOGO (buy one, get one free) can save you a lot of money. Get the weekly circulars from the grocery stores near your home and plan your shopping list around the items that are buy one, get one free. The meat department usually provides the biggest savings on BOGO items. Whenever meat you like is BOGO (which can be almost every week), stock up. (Some families may want to invest in a deep freezer; however, consider the cost of running this appliance, especially in Florida.) Just make sure that the BOGO price is not higher than the price you would normally pay – sometimes stores can be tricky!
Other items families use all the time (like bread, pasta, pasta sauce, toilet paper, tea, cheese, etc.) tend to be on a BOGO rotation, so you can stock up whenever they are on sale. Then just buy the other things you really need, like milk and produce. The important thing is that you don’t buy items you don’t use or won’t eat just because they’re on BOGO.
While some can take couponing to an extreme, coupons really can save a lot of money on things you are already planning to buy. Couponing doesn’t have to take you a lot of time, but it does give you a big return. There are many places you can search for manufacturers’ coupons, including the Sunday paper, online coupon websites, and even various apps for your phone. In addition, many grocery stores have their own coupons, which can be found either in-store on online. Having a coupon that coincides with a BOGO offer can help reduce your costs even further. Better still, most grocery stores will also accept a manufacturer’s coupon on top of their store coupon (commonly referred to as “stacking”), so keep an eye out for coupons that coincide with ones you found in the paper. You may even consider taking a couponing class to get the most bang for your buck!
With all of the expenses we incur each month, it is important to have as much control as possible in your budget. Food is one area where you can really take chargevvand see a big difference in your spending. By saving on food, you can use that “extra” money to save, pay off debt, or reach other financial goals.